January 2010

Last updated on January 1, 2010. Please check back later for additions.


The Cinema Lounge
Adam's Rib: What Would You Have? Readers Respond
Press Conference on White Ribbon
The Venice Film Festival (in three parts)
Flame and Citron: Comments from Director Ole Christian Madsen
An Education: Notes from the Press Conference
We Need to Hear From You
Calendar of Events

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Last 12 issues of the Storyboard.

The Cinema Lounge

The next meeting of the Cinema Lounge will be on Monday, January 18 at 7:00pm. Our topic is "The Oscars."

The Cinema Lounge, a film discussion group, meets the third Monday of every month at 7:00pm at
Barnes and Noble, 555 12th St., NW in Washington, DC (near the Metro Center Metro stop). You do not need to be a member of the Washington DC Film Society to attend. Cinema Lounge is moderated by Daniel R. Vovak, ghostwriter with Greenwich Creations.

Last month at Cinema Lounge
On December 21, 2009, we discussed "Sacred Cows: The best worst movies and the worst best movies."

What Would You Have? -- The Adam's Rib Readers Respond

By Adam Spector, DC Film Society Member

Last month I enthralled readers (a few of them, anyway) with
a list of movie items I wished I could have in real life. But I did more than merely share. I also challenged readers to submit their own ideas. A few brave souls took me up on this challenge. Check out their picks in my new Adam's Rib column. Coming soon -- my ten best of 2009 and my take on the Oscar noms.

White Ribbon:
Press Conference at the London Film Festival

By James McCaskill and Annette Graham, DC Film Society Members

Michael Haneke's latest film, White Ribbon (Das weisse band, Michael Haneke, Germany/Austria/France, 2009), has opened in New York and Los Angeles and is expected to arrive here later this month. This press conference for White Ribbon took place at the London Film Festival. Director Michael Haneke spoke through a translator.

The action takes place in a German village in the fifteen months that precede World War I. Among the people who live there are a baron, who is a large landowner and a local moral authority, his estate manager, a pastor with his many children, a widowed doctor and a schoolteacher who is thinking of getting married. It is he who, many years later, tells this story.

Though everything seem to be quiet and orderly, as it always has been, with the seasons following each other, and good harvests following bad ones, suddenly some strange events start to occur. If some appear to be quite ordinary, even accidental -- a farmer's wife dies falling through rotten floorboards -- others are inexplicable and may well be malevolent. The village is worried, and at a loss to what to do. The schoolteacher starts to unravel the mystery but what he discovers seems incredible to him. When he tries to reveal what he thinks he has found, he is rebuffed, insulted and threatened with the loss of his position.

We learn that the Archduke of Austria has been murdered by a Serbian in Sarajevo and an international crisis is brewing. The worries and the drama of the village are soon lost in the strange excitement of the coming war. Later, the teacher ponders it again: didn't those events contain the germs of the tragedies that followed? Weren't the barbaric acts, deep down, the natural consequences of what has been taught?

The Press Conference
Moderator: It gives me great pleasure to welcome Michael Haneke to the festival and his translator Martin Brady. A brief recap on Michael Haneke's career and films: Back in 1989 after many years working in theater and television in Austria, Mr. Haneke wrote and directed his first film for cinema which was The Seventh Continent. It immediately introduced some of the themes which have been recurring in his work ever since: the difficulties of family life, repression in the home, pressures of society and everyday violence, all told in a chilling matter of fact style which has evolved over the years but is still there in the latest film White Ribbon. After that striking debut he made three more films in Austria including Funny Games in 1997 which was a something of a breakthrough film in terms of audiences and numbers before moving to a new stage in his career in 2000 when he made Code Unknown in Paris and in French. I think that marked the beginning of a close ongoing relationship with French actors and French cinema. In 2002 came The Piano Teacher, in 2003 Time of the Wolf, and then in 2005 Hidden which starred Daniel Auteil and Juliette Binoche and which won best director prize in Cannes. In 2008 he remade Funny Games in English and in America which now brings us to The White Ribbon, a brilliant complex film. It's his first film in the German language since the original Funny Games 12 years ago. It won the Palme D'Or in Cannes earlier this year in May and it's set over several months from 1913-1914 in a north German village, which in some ways is still feudal superficially--there's the baron, the pastor, the farmer. As strange mysterious events begin to happen, the film explores possible reasons behind that, all told quite crucially by a narrator figure whose character appears in the film. He explains the story of a period earlier in his life--perhaps 1960s-70s--although that isn't clear.

Question: The new film is a period piece set in 1913-14 with very intricate period detail, a very large cast, a narrative that takes in several households, many relationships and events. When you were writing the script did you feel personally that this was one of the most challenging films you had ever attempted as a writer before even coming to it as a director?
Michael Haneke: I don't think it is the first. I made a number of films for TV for example with large casts, ensemble pieces. Time of the Wolf would be an example, that's an ensemble piece. Also Code Unknown and The 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance. I'm interested in making films that show a section across society, so to my mind this isn't the first film of that kind.

Question: What challenges did setting it in 1913-14 create for you both as a director and a writer?
Michael Haneke: The first thing I had to do was read a lot. First of all about education, looking at education from the middle ages right through the 20th century; and the second major area was country life in the 19th century which we don't know much about these days. Secondly collecting images. We used an enormous number of images. They were important for the costumes of course and above all for the sets, crucial in fact. We wanted to be precise about that. So we looked in particular for example at the images of the photographer August Sander [1876-1964] which were very important for the esthetic of the film.

Question: I'm very curious to know why you settled on the years 1913-14 for this film. In terms of the characters you portray, the baron, pastor, the farmer, the doctor, all living within one local rural community--superficially it's still quite feudal in terms of that very hierarchically structure in society. It was almost the last stage in European history when you could explore a feudal society. Was it the fact that not just Germany but Europe was on the eve of modernity, on the eve of change that fascinated you?
Michael Haneke: Yes that too certainly, but also of course because of the children--because you think of how old they will be when it comes to the period of fascism. And of course because in the feudal system at that period, 80% at least of people lived in villages so it's very simple to get a cross section of society in a single village. You get the microcosm of the social macrocosm.

Question: You mentioned that one of the elements of the film is that we are made to wonder how old these children would be as adults in the years of fascism in Germany. That's something you introduced to us quite strongly via the narrator figure. The narrator asks us to think ahead by the very act of him looking back. He actually says in the beginning something along the lines "by retelling these events perhaps we can come to some understanding of the events that came later." which as you say ask us to look forward in German history and to the years of fascism. But you are also quite resistant to see it just as a German story. Could you explain how the balance you want to achieve of it being a German story and between it being a more universal story along certain themes?
Michael Haneke: The film does try to use German fascism as an example, or rather not specifically German fascism but the results of German fascism. What it does is to show how people are prepared or indoctrinated for an ideology, people who are already in a state of repression are being humiliated by society who grasp at a straw that is offered to them and how that then develops into a form of indoctrination--it could be religious, it could be political. It's always the same model that operates in these circumstances. And it's that which is the actuality of this film. Therefore it's not specifically an explanation of German fascism because that would be an impossible thing to do in any case.

Question: Is there something in particular that you saw in present politics or society that you were trying to draw a parallel to as well?
Michael Haneke: Theoretically, for example, one could make a film in an Arab country which would be about Islamism but that would be something entirely different. But the psychological model that underpins both of them would be the same.

Question: The children were extraordinary. Could you tell us about the audition process and what you were looking for in the children?
Michael Haneke: It was very complicated. Because we didn't only need them to be talented but we also needed the faces that we recognized from the photos of that period. And my main fear was that we wouldn't find them. So we started the casting 6 months before we made the film and we tried 7,000 children in order to find the right ones.

Question: How did you decide the various problems of each household? For example, is it significant that the doctor who should be healing people is the abusive one in his family? And that the teacher is the narrator telling us to look back at history and at the future?
Michael Haneke: That's what it's like in life [referring to the abusive doctor]. [The teacher] has got the best chance to see things from the outside, from above. Dramatically I needed someone who could come from the outside, and bring that perspective.

Question: When you're actually writing it and then directing and filming it do you have an idea in your head as to who commited the crimes?
Michael Haneke: Certainly, yes. Because when I try to construct my films I think it's important that the audience can choose one particular interpretation, but for each of those strands of the story it's important that there must be a logical explanation as well.

Question: Did the historical research have an effect on your decision to have voiceover narration which is such a strong presence in the film?
Michael Haneke: It wasn't specifically a result of the research that had to be done for this, it wasn't specifically because it was a historical film. It's because it's to achieve a kind of distanciation or estrangement. At the beginning of course he says, "I don't know if all the details that I heard are correct and some things I've only heard second hand." So there's an element of doubt as to what actually happened. It's tied in also on the same level in terms of distanciation with the use of black and white which is also there to achieve this kind of estrangement. The reason is that I'm irritated that historical films always come with a claim of false naturalism: that's how things specifically were. Which they aren't. Because a film is always an artifact, not a reconstruction of reality.

Question: Could you tell us something about your decision to work with Jean-Claude Carrière on the script and what he contributed to the final screenplay?
Michael Haneke: Originally in the script, the film was going to be 3.5 hours long. The producer couldn't sell that. So it was decided we had cut one hour from it. I managed to cut 20 minutes but that was all I could do. So we asked Jean-Claude Carrière to help with the cutting. So we spent two afternoons together over it and at the end of that we managed to cut an hour from it.
Question: Was that a painful process? I would imagine that if you have a 3.5 hour film you were very close to it.
Michael Haneke: For me that was painful yes, but Jean-Claude's suggestions were so convincing that I was happy to follow them. Anyway there was nothing else we could do.

Question: Youth violence and antisocial behavior are particularly resonant in this country at the moment. The British press is full of stories about people committing horrendous acts. Do you think this is an issue that is being overlooked and do you offer a solution?
Michael Haneke: I certainly don't have any solutions to offer--that's not my job and I really can't say anything about the conditions in England. That would be hollow, I wouldn't have anything to say about that. The issue of course is education which is an internal problem. The details in the film are largely gleaned from educational guides for teachers. If you go to a bookshop you'll see huge sections with books covering that particular issue of education. It's a problem that you simply can't get rid of. It's a basic human problem. If you could solve it we would have a different society. It's not ideal now, but it certainly wasn't ideal back then either.

Question: Just to pick up on education. When you talk about education are you thinking mostly about what goes on in the home between parents and children behind closed doors, especially between fathers and sons? That seems to be the dominant theme.
Michael Haneke: Yes. I think most neuroses begin in the family for the simple reason that the smaller you are the more likely you are to be at home and to be influenced by your family. You are, after all, influenced most in your early youth. Cleverer people than I have said that already.

Question: Where do you see this fitting into the context of cinema of German history in the 20th century, specifically the 1930s and 1940s, a period which has been directly covered by cinema many many times. Do you feel that this film grew out of your reaction to those films or a perspective on that period that had been neglected, or a failing in these films?
Michael Haneke: There are many films about the period of fascism itself but I don't know any about that period beforehand. But it wasn't that specific fact that they weren't there that got me to think about this in the first place. That wasn't what led to the basic idea for this film but that became apparent when I began to think about it. The trouble is that when you read criticisms of the films that I've made you get the impression that they're all about themes or problems or ideas but those are actually things that develop out of characters, out of images and out of other things. And these more abstract things develop while working on the material. They develop out of it. It's not a theoretical exercise from the outset.

Question: You've made films in German, French and English. Is there a hierarchy of comfort you have there? Was it particularly difficult to make a film in French or English?
Michael Haneke: Yes, because my English is pretty bad, so it was most difficult in America. I can speak French fairly well so it was much better there. Not that I couldn't explain things to the actors in other languages because they have to understand what is going on--that's their job. But because I want to be able to control things and that's very difficult to do if you aren't 100% in a particular language. It makes you uncertain, it makes you nervous.

Question: Does that mean that when you are filming this that the actors didn't have as much freedom, not to improvise because you use a script, but in terms of how they reacted?
Michael Haneke: Improvisation you can do in the theater but not in the cinema. I have a storyboard and I stick to it exactly. If an actor comes up with something better and if I'm convinced by it, then I'll certainly take it on. But film with a specific esthetic form must always be prepared in advance. The idea that's always put forward that people like Cassavetes did their films simply by improvising is just not true. He rehearsed for months in advance. Any successful film has to be thoroughly prepared.

Question: Would you be interested in making another film in America or England? When it comes to communicating with your actors, how do you go about communicating with child actors, especially when asking them to do more difficult material?
Michael Haneke: (1) Never say no. It always depends on what is possible. I don't care so much where it is, it's what I want to do that matters. (2) It's difficult because you can't generalize about these things. But in essence you deal with children simply as you do with actors. You have to show a certain sort of respect and deal with them lovingly, protect them. If you protect them enough then they're open to engage with what you want to do with them. The younger they are the more patient you have to be. If they're gifted then of course it's a wonderful present you are given by having a child like that in your film. More so than in the case of actors. Because for example if you ask them to play a lion, they don't then play a lion, they actually are a lion. So a gifted child is something very special. On the other hand with a child who has no gifts in that way it's absolutely hopeless, there's nothing you can do.

Question: What projects are in your future? Will you be staying in the German language?
Michael Haneke: The next film is going to be another French film and it's going to be about the humiliation of the human body in old age. It will star Isabelle Huppert. And I hope to shoot it next year but I need to write it first of all--which isn't really possible to get the time at the moment because of all the interviews I have to do.

Question: Don't you also have an opera commitment coming up?
Michael Haneke: In 2013 I'm going to direct Cossi Fan Tutti.

Thanks to the London Film Festival for permission to use this press conference (edited and condensed).

The Venice Film Festival:
The Mostra, 66th Edition

By Cheryl Dixon, DC Film Society Member

The 66th edition of the Venice Film Festival (“the Mostra”) got off to a roaring start on September 2nd. My favorite Italian filmmaker, Giuseppe Tornatore, introduced his film, Baaria at a press conference, and later held court at one of the biggest Festival openings ever. Accompanying him on the red carpet: famed composer Ennio Morricone, production designer, Maurizio Sabatini, producer Giampaulo Letta, and actors Francesco Scianna, Margareth Made, and Raoul Bova. It’s been 20 years since an Italian movie headlined the Festival and the spectacle was definitely worth the wait. Sizzling hot Italian Actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta led the photo session to mark the grand opening.

The Lido Low-Down
Rumor has it that there were fewer press attendees this year due to an overlap with the schedule of the Toronto Film Festival. Customarily journalists attempt to attend both festivals, running from one to the other as one winds down and the other winds up. Too much attention is paid to a purported rivalry. Venice is and always will remain distinct if nothing else for its history and its unique location. Nothing can quite compare to the splendour of its setting, the beauty of its gondolas gliding along the Grand Canal beneath romantic bridges at sunset!

I am drawn back again and again to this mystical place and it seems that the rest of the world is similarly intrigued. Last year’s complaint about the Festival was that there was not enough megawatt star power. This year more than made up for it with Nicolas Cage, John Turturro, and Sylvester Stallone as returning sons of Italy, heavy weights Michael Moore and the entire Disney/Pixar creative crew, including Brad Bird and John Lasseter, there to pick up a special award presented by George Lucas. Wesley Snipes was here. Paris Hilton partied there. While Hollywood could reclaim its star power, with “Gorgeous” George Clooney, Mr. Venice Film Festival himself, making a return appearance, along with pal Matt Damon, the English and the French rolled out heartthrobs Colin Firth, Christopher Lambert, and Isabelle Huppert. The Festival included films from countries not often represented in the past, like Egypt, and films where women’s issues in male-dominated societies were also featured. Nice to see Omar Sharif. Even Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez showed up at the World Premiere of Oliver Stone’s South of the Border.

What’s New, Exciting, and Different?
The Lancia Café once again was the ultimate destination for casual lounging, free drinks, official interviews, and people-watching, on the grounds of the famed Hotel Excelsior. S. Pellegrino and assorted Italian wine and beer manufacturers were amongst the sponsors offering liquid refreshment. Hollywood Daily Variety replaced CIAK magazine with the schedule, photos, and goings-on of the day-to-day activity of Festival world. For night-time entertainment, Quintessentially Yours, which again offered luxurious ambiance by day for drinks and cuisine also expanded its repertoire to be the choice location to stargaze at Matt Damon, Nicholas Cage, Todd Solondz, and John Sayles as they dined or were interviewed. Its fabulous dance parties also solidified its reputation as being absolutely the best place to be for after 5 action!

Not that there wasn’t serious competition to divert attention away from all those wonderful screenings. Fashion and its importance to both the Festival and Italian culture in general took place front and center this year.

Red-carpet fashion and images from it beamed around the world have always been an integral part of the Festival-going experience in Venice. Last year’s appearance by Valentino and this year’s with Tom Ford bear witness to this. No surprise then was the appearance of the new Style Star Lounge, a pavilion showcasing the marriage between film and fashion and between film, fashion, and technology. While offering relaxation, the best champagne, and ambiance for celebrity interviews, and, yes, evening parties, the Style Star Lounge also offered a distinct educational experience.

Marina Garzoni, founder and president of Moda e Technologia and organizer/director of
Style Star, presented various style experiences around the fashion meets technology theme. For example, in partnership with Microsoft, the festival attendees could view demonstrations of a virtual image, touch-screen, table-top computer featuring movie shorts presented around a specific product. Think of this as an extended version of product-placement in a movie short. Simply by touch, one could move images around the desired location on a table surface and play movie shorts by using a virtual keyboard!

Another Lounge exhibitor was Gennaro “Luca” Rubinacci, an heir to generations of Rubinaccis, tailors of custom-made clothing for aristocracy for generations. Clients include royalty and fashion designers, like Calvin Klein. Rubinacci spoke passionately about bringing the legendary classically elegant, fit, cut, texture, and style, combined with his love for bright colors influenced by his family’s origins in Naples to new markets. It is fitting that Rubinacci should consider extending his ultra-exclusive line of wear to the celebrities and A-list establishment, who can afford the quality and value of the finest tailoring available anywhere in the world, and who are also present at the Festival.

Yet another heir to the family business could be found here: Valentina Fontana, vice president of Fontana Group, smartly leveraging her connections to the Ferrari family, introduced a line of finely honed furniture with the aluminum used in the luxury car manufacturing. With the sophistication of luxury car engineering, moulds and metal bodies. Fontana created a daring concept to re-invent and transform the materials and technology formerly used in luxury cars and the auto industry in another form, the altreforme brand of sleek, sculptured, designer furniture that is also lightweight, practical, durable, and stunningly-designed. And it’s eco-friendly, too, completely recyclable. Lounge guests could sit on a couch and view a bookcase made from this material. Che bella!

Another great addition to Festival offerings! See you next year on the Lido!

And the Winner is … 2009 Awards
For a comprehensive list of award winners, a complete description of the Festival’s mission, competition categories, and a complete roster of films, please see the festival website.

The Venezia 66 International Jury at the 66th Venice Film Festival, chaired by Director Ang Lee (China, Taiwan) and comprised of Actress Sandrine Bonnaire (France), Director Joe Dante (USA), Director Liliana Cavani (Italy), Writer/Producer Sergei Bodrov (Russia), Screenwriter/Director Anurag Kashyap (India), and Director/Writer/Rock Star Luciano Ligabue (Italy) viewed 23 films in competition, and decided the following:

  • GOLDEN LION for Best Film: Lebanon by Samuel Maoz (Israel, France, Germany).
  • SILVER LION for Best Director: Shirin Neshat for the film Zanan Bedoone Mardan (Women Without Men) (Germany, Austria, France).
  • SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: Soul Kitchen by Fatih Akin (Germany).
  • COPPA VOLPI for Best Actor: Colin Firth in the film A Single Man by Tom Ford (USA).
  • COPPA VOLPI for Best Actress: Ksenia Rappoport in the film La Doppia Ora by Giuseppe Capotondi (Italy).
  • MARCELLO MASTROIANNI AWARD for Best Young Actor or Actress: Jasmine Trinca in the film Il Grande Sogne by Michele Placido (Italy).
  • OSELLA for Best Production Designer: Sylvie Olive for Mr. Nobody by Jaco Van Dormael (France).
  • OSELLA for Best Screenplay: Todd Solondz for Life During Wartime by Todd Solondz (USA).
  • GOLDEN LION FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: John Lasseter, and Disney Pixar Directors Brad Bird, Peter Docter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unrich.

    “LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS” AWARD FOR A DEBUT FILM: Engkwentro by Pepe Diokno (Philippines).

    SPECIAL MENTION: Negli Occhi by Daniele Anzellotti and Francesco Del Grosso (Italy).

    So, Who Was There?
    Tariq Ali, Jaume Balaguero, Monica Birladeanu, Brad Bird, Raoul Bova, Hugo Chavez, Alex Cox, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Nicholas Cage, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Claire Denis, Colin Firth, Tom Ford, Antoine Fuqua, Haile Gerima, Ethan Hawke, Todd Haynes, John Hillcoat, Paris Hilton, Isabelle Huppert, Werner Herzog, Angela Ismailos, Shekhar Kapur, Christopher Lambert, John Lasseter, Ang Lee, George Lucas, Maragareth Made, Ewan McGregor, Eva Mendes, Michael Moore, Ennio Morricone, Viggo Mortensen, Joe Penhall, A. R. Rahman, Francesco Scianna, Omar Sharif, Kodi Smit-McPhee, John Sayles, Wesley Snipes, Steven Soderbergh, Todd Solondz, Oliver Stone, Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone, Nadja Swarovski, Tilda Swinton, Giuseppe Tornatore, and John Turturro, to name a few.

    No Venice, No Party

    By Cheryl Dixon, DC Film Society Member

    How do you start off an international film festival with a bang? Maybe when you see and hear fireworks from an open air terrace on the rooftop of the luxurious Hotel Danieli five minutes away from the famous landmark, St. Mark’s Square, at a “Star 66” aperitif tasting celebrating three chefs’ “cinema-inspired” dessert offerings and the 66th edition of the Venice Film festival. Chefs of Hotel Danieli, Hotel Gritti Palace, and the Westin Europa & Regina joined forces in a friendly competition to present culinary art around movie themes at a reception sponsored in collaboration with Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Variety, a chief Festival sponsor.

    Everything tasted fabulous. The ambiance was splendid, and the breezy night views of the Venice landscape under an almost full moon were fantastic!

    You may have realized from reading my past articles the importance of attending the networking parties that are an indispensable part of this Festival’s scene. This is where the movers and shakers, the industry players and film principals, the Venetian and international royalty and folks who just plain love the movies, mix and mingle over great food, drinks, and dancing. This is something you want to do as part of your Festival-going experience. Since this is Italia, of course, everything is presented with great flair, fashion, and high style. The Hotel Danieli is a former Doge’s palace, think royal palace. You can expect to enter a salon with elegantly carved mantles, a grand staircase, red carpeting, and find dessert stations with gold and silver accents holding desserts crafted to perfection, each dessert a miniature work of art. After mild flirtation with a chef or two, I walked outside onto the adjoining terrace and parked myself in front of a station and proceeded to sample everything while chatting with well-dressed journalists, film executives, and other guests connected with the Festival. I also viewed the still photos of movie stars past and present on the tables and directors’ chairs, or watched the movie clips inside projected on the salon’s ceilings while listening to Hollywood soundtrack standards.

    Quintessentially Yours, the open-air nightclub/bar/lounge/restaurant by the sea again offered the see and be seen parties by night and celebrity watching by day but kicked things up several notches this year. This was the location for fabulous luncheons where Nicholas Cage, Matt Damon, and their entourages stopped by. I also spotted John Sayles, and Todd Solondz being interviewed. Celebrities and guests alike received some fun swag items. The Hotel Excelsior also kicked things into high gear with the Opening Party for Baaria with a Lancia-sponsored gala by the sea. The Style Star Lounge on its grounds where guests could sip on the finest champagne and learn more about the marriage between technology and fashion was the setting for a magnificent 70s-themed party sponsored by the fashion magazine, Marie Claire. Finally, the hotel co-sponsored a wine-tasting event that was truly exquisite.

    Last, after seeing the splendor of the Danieli Hotel, I was still struck by the magnificence of the “Night of Passage Party” hosted by Nadja Swarovski and Director Shekhar Kapur who recently collaborated with Swarovski Entertainment on the short film Passages, about three sisters reunited after a tragic loss. Kapur is well-known for directing Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Four Feathers. Another collaborator on this film short was A. R. Rahman, Oscar-winning composer of Slumdog Millionaire, was also present.

    A water shuttle taxi service brought guests to the party held on the island of Giudecca where I finally got to see the famous Hotel Cipriani, scene of many a George Clooney party. I was unprepared for an evening mingling with the film crowd. At the entrance was a statue in a coat of arms completely surrounded by a Swarovski-style, crystal-beaded curtain. On the other side of this backdrop stood Rahman posing for photographs. After Venetian cocktails and canapés, guests walked upstairs to view the film and then adjourned afterwards for more film banter, Venetian cocktails and canapés….unforgettable.

    Notes from the Venice Film Festival

    By Cheryl Dixon, DC Film Society Member

    The screen offerings are diverse at the Venice Film Festival. So there’ll be something that will definitely interest you. If you choose to watch an American-made (or English-speaking) movie, here’s your chance to look at foreign subtitles, in this case, Italian, and hone your foreign language skills! Also, certain films present the opportunity to actually see the film principals attending the screening of their respective films. Here are my film notes for this year’s round.

    So, what’s the advantage about seeing movies at the Venice Film Festival? You can actually meet the film stars and filmmakers who often attend the public screenings of their films. You can learn Italian (all of the films are screened in their original language with subtitles in English and Italian, yes, we’re talking in some cases two sets of subtitles on a single screen.) with all the words and phrases they won’t teach you in school! You will see, occasionally, films that are already released in the U.S., but this time can see again with a heavily-Italian audience. More often, however, you will see film premieres.

    I saw lots of great films. My favorites? John Hillcoat’s The Road, Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story, and Raja Amari’s Buried Secrets. Here follows a brief synopsis of a selection of these films with commentary.

  • Life During Wartime (USA): Writer/Director Todd Solondz presents a dark comedy featuring an ensemble cast including Allison Janney, Ally Sheedy, Michael Lerner, Ciaran Hinds, Charlotte Rampling, Shirley Henderson, and Paul Reubens. Janney’s character finds love with a “perfect” man after disappointment in love with her incarcerated ex-husband, a pedophile, or does she? The story features a dysfunctional family’s efforts to find love, hope, and forgiveness. Fans of his earlier film Happiness will recognize characters and might consider this movie a sequel.

  • The Road (USA): Director John Hillcoat and writer John Penhall do justice to Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a father protecting his son in a post-apocalyptic world. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee convincingly portray father/son survivors and their Oscar-worthy performances are supported by the efforts of Charlize Theron and Robert Duvall. The eerie cinematography is convincingly real perhaps because the movie was filmed in actual places abandoned, worn, and decayed.

  • Capitalism: A Love Story (USA): Writer/Director Michael Moore again makes a huge splash, this time taking on capitalism and arguing that it doesn’t work any more for most of the American people. You’ll recognize the familiar humor, the film clips and interviews with public officials, and the not-so humorous anecdotes and heartfelt stories of people who have lost their homes due to foreclosures. Whether or not you’re a fan of Moore’s work, this movie will get you thinking about the events leading to the current recession.

  • White Material (France): Director Claire Denis shares writing credits with Marie N’Diaye in a story set on a coffee farm in Africa. Isabelle Huppert portrays the driven European owner of the farm fighting for its survival, her husband, portrayed by Christopher Lambert, is the less-driven, absent father, and William Nadylam, is the local leader. All are embroiled in a time of civil and racial unrest.

  • South of the Border (USA): How do you spell controversy? Director Oliver Stone shares writing credit with Tariq Ali in this documentary about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Stone argues that the American media unfairly criticizes Chavez. The film includes interviews of other Latin American leaders including, Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Brazil’s Lula da Silva, Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo, Cuba’s Raul Castro, and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa. President Chavez attended the world premiere of this film – a real media coup, but it remains to be seen whether this film will get U.S. distribution.

  • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (USA): Director Werner Herzog presents Nicholas Cage as the drug and gambling addicted detective originally portrayed by Harvey Keitel in the 1992 film “Bad Lieutenant.” Cage is joined by Val Kilmer, Eva Mendes, and Irma P. Hall, in a crime drama set in post-Katrina New Orleans. There’s action, there’s dark humor, and there are turns as Cage attempts to solve the murder of five immigrants.

  • The Informant! (USA): Director Steven Soderbergh and writer Scott Burns bring to life Kurt Eichenwald’s book about whistle-blower Mark Whitacre. In this comedy/crime thriller, Matt Damon portrays Whitacre, a vice-president of an agri-business corporation involved in a price-fixing scheme. Collaborating with FBI agents to expose his company’s price-fixing activities, Whitacre begins to convince himself that he is an actual spy.

  • Buried Secrets (Dowaha) (Tunisia, Switzerland, France): Writer/Director Raja Amari presents a multi-layered story that portrays the story of a mother and her two daughters living isolated in the servants’ quarters of a deserted mansion and what happens when “intruders” arrive living upstairs and unaware of the mansion’s other occupants. The youngest daughter finds her sheltered “downstairs” world shattered and altered by the freedoms she secretly witnesses from the intruders. Hafsia Herzi, Sondos Belhassen, and Wassila Dari star.

  • Yi Ngoi (Accident) (Hong Kong): Director Pou-Soi Cheang’s thriller about a group of assassins, headed by the “brain” (Louis Koo), that stage their murders to look like accidents. Paranoia begins to overwhelm the brain when one day one of the assassins is killed during one of these accidents. Was it really an accident, or deliberate murder? Richie Ren, Alexander Chan, Michelle Ye, and Shi-Fan Fung are also featured in this inventive story.

  • Insolacao (Brazil): Directors Felipe Hirsch and Daniela Thomas present a series of love stories that can best be described as poetry in motion. A narrator overlooks the city where all kinds of love situations occur and reports on what are unfortunately tales of unrequited love. So, in magnificent and romantic settings we then see depictions of love lost.

  • Baaria (Italy): Writer/Director Guiseppe Tornatore presents a semi-autobiographical epic journey of three generations in a Sicilian village. Francesco Scianna and Margareth Made make their debut, Raoul Bova is amongst the many fine actors in this production. The cinematography is fabulous. Tornatore spoke of the civil and political context of one character’s experience being a Communist in Italy. He was retelling the story of a number of people who had grown up around him and the important subjects that were discussed.

  • The Men Who Stare at Goats (USA/UK): Director Grant Heslov presents a comedy with Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) as a self-confessed army operative telling reporter Bob Hilton (Ewan McGregor) about his experiences working with a secret unit employing psychic powers when fighting enemies. Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey are also cast. Outrageous, but some stories are based on reality….

    Flashback: Magic moment -- John Lasseter’s advice for movie success: a great story (what happens next?), appealing characters (even bad ones), and set in a real (believable) world! Also, “Quality is the best business plan.”

    This year’s predictions: The Road will receive Oscar nominations.

    Films I wish that I had seen: REC 2, Lourdes, A Single Man, Great Directors, Desert Flower.

    Women’s Stories: Buried Secrets and Francesca

    By Cheryl Dixon, DC Film Society Member

    Buried Secrets
    Writer/Director Raja Amari uncovers “buried secrets” in her film by the same name. Sisters Aicha (Hafsia Herzi) and Radia (Sondos Belhassen) live secretly downstairs with their mother (Wassila Dari) in the servants’ quarters of a deserted mansion, which they cannot leave as it conceals family secrets. This movie explores the passionate awakening of the youngest sister, Aicha, when a “worldly” modern couple suddenly occupies the main quarters, unaware that the mansion has other occupants and are being closely watched by Aicha. Aicha’s upstairs/downstairs world leads to confusion, awakening, and freedom from her previously cloistered condition.

    I had the pleasure of interviewing Raja Amari, Hafsia Herzi, and Sondos Belhassen for this film, which was presented in the Orrizonti competition. Amari has long been a proponent for women’s rights, particularly as they relate to a women’s sexuality, within a male-dominated society. Tunisian-born, Raja Amari has explored the theme of women’s sexual emancipation through belly dance in her first feature film, Red Satin. Buried Secrets is her second feature-length film.

    I asked Amari to tell me about herself, what drew her to the film world, what attracted her to this story, and what are the themes of identity and liberation saying about women in the Arab world. I also asked her about how she has expressed the difficulties faced by women living in closed societies in her other works and whether there has been any backlash in doing so. Amari spoke of her love of French literature. She taught French in secondary school and used to love teaching. In film she was drawn to Japanese cinema and the works of Roman Polanski. She stated further that she enjoys exploring the world of reclusive woman negating their secret desires and the process of discovering identity and liberation. She acknowledges that sexuality is a taboo subject and has faced opposing views to her material including writing about sexual emancipation through belly dancing in Red Satin. She says though that she has no particular aim for her film she hopes to express her vision and perspective and hopes she will be able to “talk” to people with different mindsets on these themes. She hopes that many people will see her film both at the Festival and abroad.

    Herzi, the winner of a French Cesar Award for Best Young Actress in the 2007 film Couscous, says that she loved the script and Amari. She has never considered doing anything else besides acting. She did not have any particular role models, or special loves for any films, she just wanted to be on the big screen, and participate in a work that is almost like a modern fairy tale.

    Belhassen, who portrays the older daughter, Radia, was similarly drawn to the story. A choreographer and dancer, she also sees that being a dancer allows for the expression of her female sexuality, she hopes that the movie will be able to comment on the subjects of self-discovery, identity, and liberation on a universal level and that others will receive a universal message not just confined to women in the Arab world.

    The themes of identity and self-discovery are also explored in the film Francesca, featuring Actress Monica Birladeanu as a kindergarten teacher in Bucharest, who emigrates to Italy in the 1980s and takes a job as a nurse to improve her financial circumstances. The movie is about how former Communist societies, as they undergo economic transformation, produce a loss of “social reference points,” as the Writer/Director Bobby Paunescu states, for their inhabitants and generate a desire amongst them to head somewhere else in pursuit of a better life. It also covers how the decision to emigrate impacts the entire family. For Romanians, Italy is seen as the promised land, much the way that Italians did in the early 20th century when they emigrated to the U.S.

    Birladeanu is considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. Striking in looks, she is also very warm and highly intelligent. She is a trained attorney; perhaps you have seen her guest-starring on television in “Lost” and “Nip/Tuck.” At the Style Star Lounge I had the opportunity to interview her where she spoke about her lead character role in Francesca. The first question: what are her personal interests and what led her too portray this character. Then, were there any parallels between her life and the character’s? Birladeanu indicated that while studying law she did some television work and developed a passion for the cinema, and like her character she was a kindergarten teacher. She can identify with emigrating as she did arriving in the U.S. to improve her television hosting skills by taking acting classes which eventually led her acting roles in television and then on to the big screen. I also asked her about working in Francesca with actors and a director that she already knew. She had worked with Paunescu who also produced The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, in which she had starred along with the characters who portray her parents and boyfriend in Francesca. She thought that this made working with the characters easier because she already knew their style.

    Birladeanu also commented on the socio-political freedoms which resulted in Romania in 1989 as a cause for an identity crisis. Since what has previously been uniform, for example, haircuts, income, and clothing, suddenly becomes rearranged. One becomes suddenly free to be an individual and make unique choices and this initiates a process of discovery. Who are we as a people? What can we do? These are some of the soul-searching questions people must ask themselves to resolve a personal identity crisis. The resolution? Stay tuned for both films, hopefully coming soon to a future Film Society screening.

    Director Ole Christian Madsen on Flame and Citron

    By James McCaskill, DC Film Society Member

    Flame and Citron (Flammen & Citronen, Ole Christian Madsen, Denmark/Germany, 2008) was shown at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and had a one-week run at Landmark's E Street Cinema in December. The following are comments from their catalogue and Director Madsen's Q&A following the screening.

    Ole Christian Madsen returns to the Festival with a work radically different in scope than those Toronto audiences previously viewed. Unlike his intimate domestic dramas Kira's Reason and Prague, Flame and Citron is a sprawling World War II epic about the Danish resistance against Nazi occupation. In terms of sensibility, however, the film is very much in harmony with Madesen's earlier work, driven by his fine tuned awareness of uncomfortable truths, deceit and betrayal.

    His heroes are Bent (Thure Lindhart) and Jergen (Mads Mikkelsen), better known in Denmark by their code names Flame and Citron. As the key assassins for the Resistance, they were responsible for eliminating dozens of Danish collaborators and, eventually, Nazi officers. But as Madsen shows, Flame and Citron were not conventional heroic types, nor were their actions as clear-cut as several generations of Danes believed.

    Inspired in part by Jean-Pierre Melville's legendary L'Armee des ombres, Flame and Citron is based on the premise that those who defied the Nazis lived on the margins, the kind of people who were looked down upon before the war and had absolutely nothing to lose. Flame (a reference to his blazing red hair) is at the very least a sociopath. He enjoys - possibly relishes - killing. Citron is a wounded, morose and completely unemployable alcoholic and addict. As his wife tells him at a dismal birthday party for their young daughter, he wasn't much of a husband before the War either.

    The other principals are Hoffman (Christian Berkel) a leader in the Gestapo; Aksel Winther (Peter Mygind), the Resistance leader who gives the duo their marching orders; and Ketty Selmer (Stine Stengade), with whom Flame is in love, even though both he and Citron are suspicious of her. None of these relationships is exactly transparent, however, and the political situation encourages all manner of treachery and realpolitik.

    As we now know, many of the heroic tales about World War II were myths. Shady deals were made and rampant profiteering was common, frequently at high levels of government. Trenchant and relevant (the film evokes numerous parallels to the current situation in Iraq) Flame and Citron is courageous, complex and gripping, and has already become one of the highest-grossing pictures in Danish film history. (Steve Gravestock)

    In response to a question about Ketty, director Madsen said, "No one knew what part she played around Flame and Citron until we dug it up. Few wanted to talk about it. Resistance has been trying to write them out - publicity. We found a receipt from the Nazis to her. Ketty had an affair with Flame and the Gestapo chief. Ketty did what she had to do. Actions of war could not be prosecuted. When the Nazi chieftain was 80 and living in Turkey he went on trial and that for acting with Mafia."

    When asked about Danish audience reaction, Madsen said, "response was huge, controversial and much denial. There are things that we Danes do not talk about. It is about Good Danes and Bad Germans. We won, they lost... We wanted to bury the myth, wanted to have a debate."

    Someone asked about the source of their code names. "Flame had red hair. Citron's father-in-law opened a factory to fix Citron cars of the Germans. He sabotaged them by pouring sugar in the gas line. He was found out and they blew his factory up. One of Flame's daughters committed suicide and the other had psychological problems."

    When asked why the Gestapo leader was not assassinated, he said, "No one could touch Hoffman. There had been too much retaliation. Czech resistance fighters did and the Germans killed an entire village. There was no more Czech resistance.... Hoffman led a complex life. After the war he was returned to Germany and the Brits sent him back to the UK where he received a death sentence that was changed to life in prison and then changed to seven years."

    "Flame was not a good soldier, too idealistic. Spex (Flemming Enevold) was a big hero after the war. In 1960 we learned he was a Nazi and had had people killed."

    An Education:
    Press Conference at the London Film Festival

    By James McCaskill and Annette Graham, DC Film Society Members

    An Education is still playing going strong at three area theaters. This press conference was held at the London Film Festival. Present were director Lone Scherfig, writer Nick Hornby and actors Dominic Cooper, Carey Mulligan and Matthew Beard.

    Question: Why did Lynn Barber's memoir prove irrestible?
    Nick Hornby: I thought it was funny and painful and you don't get that very often in the same material. And it introduced me to a world I didn't know very much about which was England in the 1960s before the 60s happened. And some of those people--sort of bohemian underclass that Jenny ends up hanging out with--I didn't know anything about those people and I found it fascinating.
    Dominic Cooper: I was attracted to it immediately because I knew it was Nick's original screenplay. I grew up loving his books but knew nothing about Lynn Barber's memoirs. But knowing it was a screenplay by Nick, I was very interested. I read it and loved it, the idea of everything about it. But then I didn't hear anything about it for months and then was told I need to be on set the following day to film. I said, "Absolutely."
    Carey Mulligan: My main attraction was that Nick had written it and Lone was directing it and the people already attached--Emma Thompson and Peter Sarsgaard. Lynn Barber's story was important to me. But really the focus was the script because I wasn't playing a young Lynn Barber, it was a fictionalized version of her story. It's really rare to find a young female character that has a journey and especially someone so young. And I can play young. So I thought I might try to get this one.
    Matthew Beard: I thought it was nice to see a male teenage character that wasn't either a complete jock or a complete nerd. He was actually quite nice, not on either side.
    Lone Scherfig: I loved the tone and the period and David's character. They're all very typical for their time. When you read it you feel you are seeing them, meeting them, getting them off the page.

    Question: Who are your influences? Who did you watch growing up?
    Carey Mulligan: Emma Thompson was my biggest acting influence. Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Samantha Morton. When I started acting I was lucky enough to work with people like Judi Dench, Claudie Blakley and others who do film, theater and TV and keep finding interesting parts. Emma was probably the biggest influence so getting to work with her on this was pretty huge.
    Matthew Beard: I'm from up North, so any northern actor who makes it is a hero in my eyes. I watch all films, any type of film and admire anything that anyone does. When you're young you have an idealized version of what it's going to be like to be an actor and how you're going to approach things. And then you get on set and it doesn't work out like that ever. And you slowly gradually build an appreciation for anyone who can pull off an amazing performance on set under pressure and time constraints and all sorts of other things. It definitely warps your opinions of other actors.
    Dominic Cooper: I grew up watching a lot of theater. So my influences were people who were on stage more than film. I got more into film in the last few years. I grew up watching ridiculous 1980s teen films, I'm far too embarrassed to say who they were, who I was impressed by, who influenced me, it'll probably the end of anything I ever do again. That's why I'm trying to avoid this question.

    Question: I particularly thought that the period was well captured--the montage at the beginning and the costumes and the high elastic belt that Jenny wore. I wondered whether you had any advice from Lynn Barber or how you came to so exactly capture the right period?
    Lone Scherfig: I didn't do it myself. I was surrounded by a really good crew of all ages. I think it's important to have a good age range in the crew so that some of us had experienced that period or close to it. But the script is really inspiring and you just have to trust that sometimes on film a glass can be as big as a car. The details are right and they may take up as much space on screen as the streets that we didn't have a chance to show because most of London really has changed. We worked hard to not just get things right and authentic but also make it consistent and visually right because actually there are some changes. For instance there are colors that are not at all in the film that would have been there in reality. I think part of the look of the film not only has to do with how it's shot and lit but also the lack of certain colors gives it a softness that really suits it because it gives you more focus on the characters. There's no yellow for instance until you get to Miss Stubbs place at the end.
    Nick Hornby: It was Lone's vision in terms of period details. But Lynn was very helpful about period, about language, cultural references, who would be the right artists to talk about. I had fun checking up on language as well, looking up the OED and finding out things like preggers and words like that, when was the first use in English popular culture.

    Question: Was there anything about that year that interested you when you did research or read the script or read about that time? Anything from the 60s you wish you had experienced first-hand?
    Carey Mulligan: From what I understand it wasn't a time when there were teenagers. You were either a child or you were a young adult. I like the idea that you went from one to the other and there was no time in between to be ridiculous. So I thought that was interesting. It was just not very interesting time; People would have been frustrated enough as a teenager. I certainly was at school. But to have everything added to that, that there's no rebellion, nothing going on, no fun in your world, must have been that much more frustrating. So that was an exciting place to start. And an easy victim to get picked up into something quite extraordinary. And I liked all the music. Lone gave me CDs of music to listen to that Jenny would have listened to. I thought the men looked beautiful especially. Mainly the men, that was my favorite thing.
    Dominic Cooper: It would have been terribly exciting to experience the transition that was about to take place with music. The Beatles and Stones were recording. Music was about to change dramatically. I certainly never in my life experienced a culture that has changed that much. The film is set on the cusp of that. I think that would have been tremendously exciting to experience all those new things to be launched.
    Lone Scherfig: We've tried to show how Jenny experienced things for the first time. I wouldn't want my own daughter to swap her life for anyone who was a teenager then. But certainly something has been lost and I hope that some of those values are to be found somewhere.

    Question: Are you aware of reaction to the film? Do you google your own name? How are you handling all that?
    Carey Mulligan: I'm aware of it in that people talk about it at things like this and talked about it in Toronto. I have googled myself and it's horrible because you think--that's really nice and then you read the next thing and it's horrible. So I thought that's bad, I won't do that anymore. And that was awhile ago. So no, I don't think that's a good idea. I had never been to a film festival before Sundance and I'd never played a lead in a film. When it got picked up that was huge and everything since then has been even more huge. It's afforded me opportunities--I would never have had access to the parts that I've managed to play this year. And that's been amazing. Because that's what you want. I don't wake up in the morning and think oh, what am I going to wear to a premiere. I think oh, I can't remember my lines and my work today. As long as I get to keep playing interesting parts which I'm really lucky to do, then that's the number one thing. And everything else is great. Because that means more people will see the film and that's number two on the list.

    Question: Nick, which area of your life has given you the best education.
    Nick Hornby: I wouldn't like to choose one area of life in particular. I know it wasn't education. I can definitely rule that out. I would say family, children and also the stuff that I've discovered for myself ever since I've been a teenager. Movies, music, books, but as long as they are self-motivated discoveries rather than anything imposed on me. That was when education didn't work for me. And I think that's mirrored in the film a little bit. That is the position that Jenny arrives at. She got there a lot quicker than I did.

    Question: Nick, the author of book is a woman, and the lead is a woman. Was it difficult for you to enter into their lives and into the soul of the young middle-class woman with all the dreams. You wrote as a woman. Is the process of screenplay for you totally different from the process of writing a book?
    Nick Hornby: In terms of the woman thing, if it's such a big problem for you as a writer, you probably shouldn't be writing. In any kind of fiction, you have to write about people who are not yourself. And gender is one aspect of that, but there is age, there is class, there is nationality, there's all sorts of things that you have to assay at some point in your career. And you just trust that you've been able to observe enough over the years to get it right. I was surrounded by women on this project. The two main producers are women and it's very helpful to have a female director. I had Lynn's source material, I had the experience of my own teenage years, sisters. You just hope and trust your own powers of observation. In terms of writing a screenplay of course there are some things that are technically different but it's not particularly that which I noticed. It's more the difference in the process. Movies are an insane industry compared to books. Books are quite straightforward. You write one and If they like it they will publish it and that's it. Whereas in movies there are many many many reasons why they want to make a film or not make a film, none of which have anything necessarily to do with the script. So that's a big difference.

    Question: What were you like when you were teenagers? Were you rebellious or were you quite well-behaved?
    Dominic Cooper: I stupidly ignored education completely and couldn't understand what I was doing there or what people were trying to teach me. I found it particularly dull and I much preferred interacting with people and causing chaos and having fun and now regret this massively. But luckily I just managed to get some sort of academic results to lead me onto the next section of life. But I was terribly rebellious and feel very guilty toward the teachers who were prepared to spend their time trying to teach a bunch of morons stuff that they weren't prepared to learn about. I blame the school. I couldn't really understand why in geography I wasn't learning about places and countries--I was learning about texture of soil and density of acidity.
    Carey Mulligan: I was quite straight-laced. I was quite academic until I was about 14. Then I went to boarding school where I had the opportunity to continue to be very academic but I just got less interested and became more involved in acting. Nothing professional but I just sort of lost interest. When I was applying to universities I applied to drama school without telling anyone and didn't get into drama school. And then I got into a bit of trouble. That was the most rebellious thing I did. I was still applying to go to higher education so it wasn't like anything dreadful. So I was pretty dull really.
    Matthew Beard: No, I really wasn't rebellious. I'm at university now and I like it. But I'm the opposite from Dominic--I look back and think about all the possibilities I had for rebellion and didn't take any of them. And as Nick says, education is the smallest part of my education. So I probably should have taken more advantage of those.

    Question: Carey, How daunting was it to play 6 years younger than your real age? In the production notes you say that as a schoolgirl wearing a uniform people reacted to you differently. How did the four of you get along on the set?
    Carey Mulligan: I've always played parts younger than myself. When I was 19 I did a play where I was 14. So I've always gone back four or five years. It's rare that I play an adult. I didn't worry about that too much. You have an age range that you play. Sixteen was in my age range. When you put on the school uniform you don't wear any makeup and you wear your hair a certain way. You feel very young. I was around 16 year old extras and the part was written so well I understood her as a sixteen year old. We were pros on set. We didn't mess about too much.
    Lone Scherfig: I was happy and relieved that you got along so well. It's easier to be funny when you are in good company. Running risks is an important element of good film acting. That's why I was happy that Rosamund and Carey knew one another beforehand and that we all immediately loved Dominic, and the more we got to know him the more reason we had. And Peter Sarsgaard is an unbelievably good colleague. He set a high high standard for work ethics from his very first day. Never complaining, never homesick, never jet lagged, nothing. He just set a really good example. I've been talking so much about discipline and high skills of Britsh actors seen from my Danish point of view but I have to say that Peter is unusually disciplined and humble.

    Question: Carey, You mentioned you didn't get into drama school. Could you tell us how you felt about not getting into drama school at the time and how you feel now about it? Did it help? How did you made the jump without doing that?
    Carey Mulligan: I applied to three and went to auditions and it's still the most terrifying experience in my whole life. In one I had to stand up on stage in front of 10 other people in the same group and do my piece. I did Shakespeare and I've never had any training in Shakespeare. It was a nightmare. And when I didn't get in I was disappointed, but 3,000 people apply to each these places every year and it's hugely competitive. I did some awfully pretentious monologue about suicide and I come from a really happy life and it wasn't working for me. So that wasn't a huge surprise really. I always wanted to go. I was in New York last week and went past Juillard and I kind of pined for it. That was my dream for years and years--to go and train and spend three years just acting. I think it's so personal. Dominic went and he's doing alright. And some people don't go and they do brilliantly. There are things I miss from not having trained and I think I'd be more confident on stage had I gone because you are equipped with vocal training and things like that. But in general it's worked out very well. I've been really lucky. But I would have loved to have gone. I might still go. I feel like I missed out on certain aspects, technical things that I haven't had from acting.

    Question: Nick, do you write your scripts with actors in mind? Carey, was this a film that you auditioned for?
    Nick Hornby: I think it was impossible to write this screenplay with actors in mind. I knew that we were going to have to cast an unknown in the lead role. I had no idea who that unknown would be by definition. So I couldn't think about it. I just don't know enough about it. We had a brilliant casting director and they're so clever coming up with ideas. Lucy [Bevan] had seen Carey in a few things before. So of course I was completely delighted with that. No, I've never been able to envision actors.
    Carey Mulligan: I auditioned with Lucy [the casting director] and then I went in and read with Peter and then read with Lone, so that was three auditions, over a year and a half.

    Question: Dominic, I think your character is one of the most interesting in the story. You are rich, you are cynical, you have everything the others don't have. Can you tell me something about your character, this kind of man who is cynical but also sentimental because he knows but doesn't tell anything?
    Dominic Cooper: I found him quite interesting because he's the one person who is from the world in which the others are desperate to be a part of. I think he probably comes from a very affluent, very educated world. He has everything he desires, he has very particular tastes, he knows all the things he likes and wants. He has enough wealth which always begs the question of why on earth he goes around stealing pictures off old women's walls late at night and it's probably for the absolute thrill of it. I think he probably lets things pass with his friend. I feel like he's probably seen this happen time and time again although that's not necessarily the case. I think suddenly he's confronted with a girl who enters his world who is fascinated and as excited as he is in all the riches that he has and the culture and music that he's interested in and I think that completely throws him. And actually for once he makes a stand against his friend and feels probably a lot of care and almost love towards this girl. He vaguely says something; he sort of mentions it to his friend. It's a difficult thing to confront a friend and say I don't agree with what you're doing and I'm very concerned that you're going to end up hurt someone I care for. He does it vaguely. And then ultimately I think he becomes rather nasty again and very shielded. When he is confronted by Jenny: Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you help me? he throws it back in her face, he doesn't take any of the blame or any of the responsibility. So there's a very dark side to him. But he attempts to have some sort of moral value at some point. But I'm interested in why he goes around stealing pictures.
    Nick Hornby: I imagined he is from that world. He has a public school education and there is wealth in the family. But I think he's one of those people who dropped out of public school, didn't go to university. Actually a lot of his wealth is self created. He has developed these properties and stolen bits of art and made money that way. Even though he's comfortable in the world of privilege, he hasn't actually taken any benefit from it and everything you see that he's surrounded with, he has gotten for himself.

    Question: Carey, Were you at all tense about how your relationship with Peter's character would play out on the screen?
    Carey Mulligan: No, I wasn't nervous beyond the generous nerves I get playing any part. It takes me a couple of days to settle in. I always write off the first couple days of any film, because it's going to be me just nervous and self conscious and terrible. With Peter, I think I understood the way that he was going to play it and the way that Nick intended it to be played and that he's not a sexual predator. Those scenes where he makes those inappropriate mistakes just make him more endearing and in a way make him fallible which brings him off his pedestal that he's on when I first meet him. Because he's not a cultured god, he's more like I am, which brings him closer. And the intimacy scenes never worried me because I had no doubt that there was never going to be anything more than the most modest and most appropriate way which was perfect.

    Question: Carey, This is generating a lot of buzz. But the downside of that means you are going to get a lot of attention paid to you by the British press especially, who you are dating, who you are not dating, what you are wearing, what you look like, all that kind of thing. Are you braced for that? How do you handle that? Dominic: Do they teach you that at drama school. How does that work?
    Carey Mulligan: When you do bigger jobs you get more attention. I wouldn't have gotten Wall Street II if I hadn't done An Education. But when you film in New York you get a ton of paparazzi every day and it affects your work because you're trying to think about the person you are acting and you've got 20 other lenses taking pictures of you at the same time. So it throws you. I'm not great at having my picture taken and I don't enjoy that side of it very much. But I enjoy being with my friends and it's nice to have a reunion. I've got an amazing job and the film is doing really well. I get to work with brilliant people. And then there's a 2% downside of slightly negative stuff on the internet and having my picture taken. But in general everything is pretty brilliant. So it's hard to feel that concerned about it.
    Dominic Cooper: I love the idea of there being a lesson on how to handle press and paparazzi. It would be brilliant. You're mostly being taught how you're going to cope with never ever working again in your entire life. There isn't enough work done on film in drama school.

    Question: Nick, earlier you talked about never knowing if a film will be made. Did this turn out better than you ever imagined?
    Nick Hornby: Yes. When I think I never imagined that we would get a cast like we have. [Producers] Amanda [Posey] and Finola [Dwyer] were so ambitious for my script. I was always embarrased when they said they're going to try Dominic. "He won't want to do this." There was a lot of that going on. You cannot possibly predict just what a good cast can bring to a project. So I thought in my head there was this good version and it would not achieve that, it might come close but it wouldn't get at what I imagined. But in fact when I see the finished product, it's way beyond anything I could have thought about it. It's partly Lone's visual imagination and the performance of the cast. They always bring things out of lines where there was nothing to get anything out of. Matthew came to the read through and got a laugh from the word hello. I'm looking at the script and thinking "you cheeky bastard, there was no laugh in this line, and he's got one." And he gets one in the film as well. And that's what a good cast can do for you.

    An Education is currently playing at Landmark's E Street Cinema, the AFI Silver Theater and Landmark's Bethesda Row Theater.

    Thanks to the London Film Festival for permission to use this press conference (edited and condensed).

    We Need to Hear From YOU

    We are always looking for film-related material for the Storyboard. Our enthusiastic and well-traveled members have written about their trips to the Cannes Film Festival, London Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, the Palm Springs Film Festival, the Reykjavik Film Festival, the Munich Film Festival, and the Locarno Film Festival. We also heard about what it's like being an extra in the movies. Have you gone to an interesting film festival? Have a favorite place to see movies that we aren't covering in the Calendar of Events? Seen a movie that blew you away? Read a film-related book? Gone to a film seminar? Interviewed a director? Taken notes at a Q&A? Read an article about something that didn't make our local news media? Send your contributions to Storyboard and share your stories with the membership. And we sincerely thank all our contributors for this issue of Storyboard.

    Calendar of Events


    American Film Institute Silver Theater
    On January 18 at 11:00am and 1:00pm is King: A Filmed Record ... Montgomery to Memphis (Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz), a compilation of documentary footage of Martin Luther King Jr.

    Freer Gallery of Art
    The Freer's 14th annual festival of Iranian film shows recent works in January and February. On January 8 at 7:00pm and January 10 at 2:00pm is A Man Who Ate His Cherries (Payman Haghani, 2009) preceded by a short video Consulting God (Mohammad Sadegh Jafari, 2008), a documentary about Iranian clerics who use the internet. On January 29 at 7:00pm and January 31 at 2:00pm is Shirin (Abbas Kiarostami, 2009). Kiarostami's multi-screen video installation The Spectators can be seen on January 23 at 1:00pm and 3:00pm and January 24 at 2:00pm. More in February.

    National Gallery of Art
    "Homage to Merce Cunningham" is a tribute to Merce Cunningham who died last year. On January 3 at 2:00pm is Cage/Cunningham (Elliot Caplan, 1991). On January 9 at 4:00pm is Merce by Merce by Paik, Part I and II (1978) followed by Walkaround Time (1973) with an introduction by John Hanhardt.

    "What You See Is What You See" is a series of documentaries from the 1960s and 1970s. On January 2 at 4:00pm is "Painters Painting" (Emile de Antonio, 1973); on January 7 and 8 at 12:30pm is "Jasper Johns" (1966) and "Barnett Newman" (1966); on January 14 and 15 at 12:30pm is "New Abstraction: Morris Louis/Kenneth Noland" (1966) and "New Abstraction: Frank Stella/Larry Poons" (1966); and on January 21 and 22 at 12:30pm is "Jasper Johns: Take an Object" (1990) shown with "Homage to a Square: Joseph Albers" (1970).

    "Celebrating Chekhov on the Russian Screen" celebrates Anton Chekhov's 150th anniversary with a series of seven Russian film adaptations. On January 16 at 4:00pm is An Unfinished Piece for a Player Piano (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1977); on January 17 at 5:00pm is the Washington premiere of Ward No. Six (Karen Shakhnazarov, 2009) with the filmmaker present; on January 23 at 2:30pm is Uncle Vanya (Andrei Konchalovsky, 1970); on January 24 at 4:30pm is A Hunting Accident (Emil Loteanu, 1978); on January 30 at 2:30pm is The Seagull (Yuli Karasik, 1970). Two more in February.

    Other film events at the Gallery include "Process in Time: Shorts by Richard Serra" on January 2 at 2:00pm; and the Washington premiere of "15 Days of Dance: The Making of Ghost Light: Day 3, Morning" (2009) with director Elliot Caplan present and on January 31 at 4:30pm is "15 Days of Dance: The Making of Ghost Light: Day 8, Evening" with Elliot Caplan present with dancers from the American Ballet Theater. On January 9 at 2:00pm is a "Cine-Concert" with Donald Sosin accompanying D.W. Griffith's Lady of the Pavements (1929). Award winners from The International Festival of Films on Art will be shown January 10 at 4:00pm and January 16 at 12:30pm. Titles include Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun (Sam Pollard), Karsh in History (Joseph Hillel), Anthony Caro: La sculpture comme religion (Alain Fleischer), Oslo Opera House (Anne Andersen), Boris Ryzhy (Aliona van der Horst) and Solo--Boguslaw Schaeffer (Maciej Pisarek).

    National Museum of African Art
    On January 9 at 1:00pm is a double feature Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959) shown with Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961), both French New Wave films.

    Museum of American History
    On January 26 at 6:30pm is "For Love of Liberty: The Story of African American Patriots," a 40 minute preview of a documentary by Frank Martin. The filmmaker will be prsent for discussion.

    Smithsonian American Art Museum
    Two documentaries on important figures in American music are shown in January. On January 14 at 6:30pm is Pete Seeger: The Powr of Song (Jim Brown, 2007) and on Janaury 28 at 6:30pm is Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser (Charlotte Zwerin, 1988).

    Washington Jewish Community Center
    On January 7 at 7:30pm is The Gift to Stalin (Rustem Abdrashev, 2008), which was the closing night of the Washington Jewish Film Festival in December. On January 17 at 3:00pm is Garbage Dreams, part of the "Community Cinema Cafe," a monthly program of films and discussions. On January 26 at 7:30pm is the Washington premiere of Menachem and Fred (Ofra Tevet and Ronit Kertsner) with the filmmakers present for discussion.

    Goethe Institute
    On January 4 and 11 at 6:30pm is Dresden (Roland Suso Richter, 2006), last in the series "History in Film."

    "Film | Neu" features the latest in German, Austrian and Swiss films. Ten films will be shown January 22-28 at Landmark's E Street Cinema.

    French Embassy
    On January 13 at 7:00pm is Ricky (François Ozon, 2009) starring Sergi Lopez and Alexandra Lamy.

    National Archives
    On January 16 at noon is To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) starring Gregory Peck.

    The Avalon
    As part of the "Czech Lions" series is Guard No. 47 (Filip Renc, 2008), on January 13 at 8:00pm; the film was winner of the Czech Lion in 2008 for Best Film Editing, Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

    This month's French Cinematheque film is Les Grandes Chaleurs (Heat Wave) (Sophie Lorain) on January 20 at 8:00pm.

    Anacostia Community Museum
    On January 12 at 10:30am is "Black Georgetown Remembered," a film honoring the African American community of Georgetown through recollections of its residents. Discussion follows.

    Smithsonian Associates
    On January 21 at 7:00pm is Nuba of Gold and Light (Izza Genini, 2007) about "nuba," a style of music that flourished in the courts of the Andalusian caliphs 500 years ago.

    On January 23 at 8:00pm is a "Smithsonian Sleepover" for kids with a viewing of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian on the Johnson Theater's IMAX screen. Reservations must be made: visit the website for more information.


    Film | Neu
    Film | Neu, now in its 18th year, will take place January 22-28 at Landmark's E Street Cinema. Films include documentaries and dramas from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. From Germany: Berlin Calling (Hannes Stöhr, 2008), Hilde (Kai Wessel, 2008), North Face (Philipp Stölzl, 2008), Pope Joan (Sönke Wortmann, 2009), The Architect (Ina Weisse, 2008), Vision (Margarethe von Trotta, 2009), and Whisky with Vodka (Andreas Dresen, 2009). From Austria: Kill Daddy Good Night (Michael Glawogger, 2008) and Let's Make Money (Erwin Wagenhofer, 2008). From Switzerland: Tandoori Love (Oliver Paulus, 2008).

    Previous Storyboards

    December 2009
    November 2009
    October 2009
    September 2009
    August 2009
    July 2009
    June 2009
    May 2009
    April 2009
    March 2009
    February 2009
    January 2009

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